Mrs Jayne Burgin
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The following allegation was considered by a Panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee at the substantive hearing on 17 - 21 October 2016:
During the course of your employment as a social worker at Sheffield City Council you:
1. In relation to Service User A, you did not:
a. commence and/or complete the parenting assessment between 16 August 2011 – 12 October 2011.
b. request the initial adoption paperwork from adoption business support in a timely manner.
c. attend the court hearing that was held on 04 October 2011 and/or on 06 October 2011 and/or did not inform management and/or business support of these planned court dates when you called in sick on 3 October 2011.
d. attend the court hearing that was held on 23 August 2011.
e. request the court timetable from the solicitors in a timely manner, despite being requested to do so by your manager on 16 August 2011.
2. In relation to Service User B you:
a. Did not attend Court on 09 September 2011 until prompted to do so by your manager.
b. Did not inform business support when you called in sick on 03 October 2011 that there were Court hearings on 05 October 2011 and 06 October 2011.
c. did not provide clear information to your manager(s) regarding the outcome of parenting assessments and/or further support which was required by the parents of Service User B.
d. your actions in 1(c) 2(c)above led to you agreeing to a further assessment of Service User B’s parents at court without management approval of the same.
e. subsequent to the agreement referred to in allegation 1(d) 2(d) above you inferred to your manager that other parties had requested the additional parental assessment when this was not the case.
f. Did not complete the parenting assessment and/or did not progress parallel planning in a timely manner.
g. did not complete a viability assessment on the grandmother of Service User B.
3. In relation to Family C children, you did not
a. adhere to the Court timetable in that you did not:
i. submit your final evidence to the legal department in a timely manner or at all in time for the court deadline on 26 September 2011.
ii. complete the placement order report which was due on 11 January 2012 in a timely manner and/or did not inform your manager(s) that this needed to be done when you were on a period of sick leave.
b. adhere to the adoption process in that you did not:
i. request an adoption pack in a timely manner as agreed in your supervision session of 19 July 2011.
ii. complete the initial paperwork for the adoption panel in a timely manner.
iii. complete the Review Health Assessment Consent Form on time.
iv. arrange ‘goodbye contact’ in a timely manner.
v. prepare a child permanence report for the adoption panel on 11 January 2012 and/or did not inform your manager(s) that this needed to be done when you were on a period of sick leave.
c. maintain professional communication in that you did not:
i. return the calls of the Children’s Guardian for over two weeks;
ii. contact the legal department to discuss the court hearing in a timely manner.
4. In relation to Service User D, you did not:
a. complete the Lead Professional update within the 5 working days’ time limit.
b. verify the addresses for individuals attending the Child Protection Conference to enable the invitations to be sent to attendees in a timely manner.
5. In relation to the Service User E you did not:
a. [Not Proved]
b. complete the statement and chronology in order to initiate care proceedings by the deadline of 06 December 2011;
c. maintain professional communication in that you did not:
i. reply to approximately 8 phone calls to you from the Health Visitor.
ii. [Not Proved].
d. [Not Proved].
6. In relation to Service User F:
a. Did not adhere to the Court timetable in that you did not:
i. complete the final evidence which was due to be filed on 19 December 2011.
ii. inform your manager when you went on sick leave on 12 December 2011 that the final evidence was due to be filed on 19 December 2011 but was not completed.
b. Did not undertake visits to the child every two weeks when the child was subject to a child protection plan between 09 May 2011 and 20 September 2011.
c. Did not visit the child at all after 20 September 2011.
d. You did not adhere to the Child Protection Monitoring Practice Standards for the Child Protection conference held on 20 September 2011, in that you did not:
i. make the report available to the chair a minimum of two days before the conference.
ii. share the written report with the parents a minimum of two days before the conference.
iii. include the parent’s views in your report.
iv. provide an up to date plan for that conference.
v. arrange core group meetings at the required intervals.
e. Inappropriately put a conference in the duty diary without the permission of your manager.
f. you did not maintain professional communication in that you did not:
i. maintain any or any reasonable contact with the mother of Service User F.
7. In relation to Family G children, you did not:
a. adhere to the Child Protection Monitoring Practice Standards in relation to the Child Protection conference held on 03 November 2011 in that you did not:
i. provide the report to the chair a minimum of two days before the conference.
ii. get the report authorised by your team manager.
iii. share the written report with the parents a minimum of two days before the conference.
iv. provide a report which was of an adequate standard.
v. keep the Child Protection plan up to date.
vi. arrange Core Group meetings at the required intervals.
b. progress the case to the PLO stage in a timely manner.
c. maintain professional communication in that you did not:
i. reply to approximately 9 phone calls and 6 emails sent to you by Colleague A and/or Colleague B and/or Colleague C of the Family Group Conference team between 30 August 2011 - 17 November 2011.
ii. [Not Proved].
d. undertake the required number of child protection visits.
e. Respond to emails dated 3 and 21 November 2011 in relation to arrangements for a pre-birth conference in a timely manner.
8. Your actions described in paragraphs 1 -7 amount to misconduct and/or lack of competence.
9. By reason of that misconduct and/or lack of competence, your fitness to practise is impaired.
Service of Notice
1. The notice of this hearing was sent to the Registrant at her address as it appeared in the register on 18 September 2018. The notice contained the date, time and venue of today’s hearing.
2. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, and is satisfied that notice of today’s hearing has been served in accordance with Rule 6(1) of the Conduct and Competence Committee Rules 2003 (the “Rules”).
Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant
3. The Panel then went on to consider whether to proceed in the absence of the Registrant pursuant to Rule 11 of the Rules. In doing so, it considered the submissions of Mr Mason on behalf of the HCPC, and the written submissions of the Registrant.
4. Mr Mason submitted that the HCPC has taken all reasonable steps to serve the notice on the Registrant. He drew the Panel’s attention to the letter dated 22 September 2018 sent by the Registrant to the HCPC, wherein she stated that she would not be attending this hearing and made submissions for the attention of this Panel. He also drew the Panel’s attention to information received from the Registrant that indicated that she was not medically fit to attend this hearing. Mr Mason also showed an email from Mrs Burgin, sent on 18 October 2018, wherein she reiterated that she would not be well enough to attend in the foreseeable future and that she did not want this hearing to be adjourned. Mr Mason submitted that the Registrant expected the hearing today to proceed in her absence, and that an adjournment would serve no useful purpose. He reminded the Panel that there was a public interest in this matter being dealt with expeditiously.
5. The Panel was satisfied that all reasonable efforts had been made by the HCPC to notify the Registrant of the hearing. It was also satisfied that the Registrant was aware of the hearing and expected the hearing to proceed in her absence.
6. In deciding whether to exercise its discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant, the Panel took into consideration the HCPTS practice note entitled ‘Proceeding in the Absence of a Registrant’. The Panel weighed its responsibility for public protection and the expeditious disposal of the case with the Registrant’s right to a fair hearing.
7. In reaching its decision the Panel took into account the following:
• The Registrant has not made an application to adjourn today’s hearing and is clear in her correspondence with the HCPC that she expected this hearing to proceed in her absence;
• The Registrant has engaged with the process and has submitted written representations;
• There is a public interest that this substantive order is reviewed before it expires.
8. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had voluntarily absented herself from the hearing. There is a distinction between a case where the Registrant is clearly aware of the hearing date, and one where there has been no response from the Registrant. Having weighed the public interest for expedition in cases against the Registrant’s own interest, the Panel decided to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.
Proceeding in private
9. The Panel heard that matters relating to the Registrant’s health were to be discussed as part of this application. Mr Mason submitted that it was appropriate that parts of the hearing be held in private where the Registrant’s health and/or private life was to be discussed. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice and it noted Rule 10(1)(a) of the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) Procedure Rules 2003 (“Procedural Rules”) whereby matters pertaining to the private life of the Registrant should be heard in private. The Panel agreed the parts of the hearing, where reference was to be made to the Registrant’s health and/or private life, should be heard in private.
10. The Registrant commenced work as a Social Worker at Sheffield City Council on 4 April 2000. At the relevant time, the Registrant was an experienced Social Worker within a Child In Need team. Her responsibilities related to the safeguarding of children and included progressing matters for hearings within family Court proceedings.
11. The Council was notified of concerns relating to the Registrant's delay in progressing child protection cases by judges in two separate cases in Family Court proceedings. A separate and unrelated internal audit of the case loads of all senior social workers at the council identified further concerns associated with the Registrant's work.
12. The Registrant was suspended from work by her employer on 1 May 2012. At this time, the Registrant self-referred the matter to the HCPC.
13. The Registrant resigned from her post in February 2013, prior to the completion of the internal investigation by the Council.
14. Mr Mason outlined the background of the case and submitted, that in the light of the lack of substantive engagement on the part of the Registrant, her fitness to practise remains impaired. Mr Mason also submitted that an extension of the Suspension Order would serve no useful purpose and would not further the public interest. Therefore the HCPC submitted that the Registrant’s name be struck off the register.
15. The Legal Assessor reminded the Panel that its purpose today was to conduct a comprehensive review to determine if the Registrant is fit to return to unrestricted practice. Its role was not to conduct a rehearing of the allegations nor was it to go behind the previous findings. He advised that in carrying out this assessment, the Panel must exercise its own independent judgment.
16. The Legal Assessor advised that the Panel might find the questions formulated in the case of CHRE v NMC and Grant (2011) EWHC 927 (Admin) of some assistance, albeit slightly modified for these proceedings:
Does the evidence before the Panel today show that the Registrant’s fitness to practice remains impaired by reason of her misconduct in the sense that she:
a) is liable in the future to act so as to put a service user at unwarranted risk of harm; and/or
b) is liable in the future to bring the Social Worker profession into disrepute; and/or
c) is liable in the future to breach one of the fundamental tenets of the profession?
17. The Legal Assessor advised the Panel that if it determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired, then the Panel must go on to consider what sanction, if any, should be imposed. The Legal Assessor advised the Panel that if it determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired, any of the options under Article 30 of the 2001 Order could be exercised by the Panel. He also advised the Panel that it should bear in mind the principle of fairness and proportionality and have regard to the Indicative Sanctions Policy document issued by the HCPC. He reminded the Panel that any order that it makes under Article 30 should not be punitive in purpose, and that it should be the least restrictive order that would suffice to protect the public and/or is otherwise in the public interest.
Panel’s considerations and decision
18. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel first considered whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. The Panel took into consideration all the documentation before it, and the submissions of Mr Mason. In particular it noted the following factors:
(a) This is a case of misconduct and there is no suggestion that the Registrant lacked the requisite competence to carry out the role of a Social Worker;
(b) The Panel at the substantive hearing determined that the actions of the Registrant had “breached several of the fundamental tenets of the social work profession in: failing to undertake or complete duties in a timely fashion, failing to ensure she communicated effectively with professional colleagues, service users and her manager and failing to complete records/paperwork adequately”;
(c) The limited engagement of the Registrant with the process, resulting in limited indication that the Registrant remained committed to the profession and any information regarding the Registrant or her current circumstances, including any continuing professional development since these matters arose.
19. The Panel noted the representations made by the Registrant in the documentation she had sent in. Mrs Burgin’s submitted those documents on the basis that they had not been before the previous panels dealing with these matters and that these documents would have been relevant to their decision. The essence of Mrs Burgin’s submissions is that her failings were caused by significant factors, which included cost cutting and reduction of staffing requirements at her place of work at the time of these events.
20. The Panel was conscious that it was not permitted to go behind the findings of the previous panels. However, it did take into account the above documentation and submissions when determining whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired.
21. In coming to its decision on impairment of fitness to practise, the Panel noted the following:
(a) whatever the reasons or factors that caused the Registrant’s failings, Service Users had been placed at significant risk of long lasting harm that could have been particularly profound. There is no acknowledgment of this in Mrs Burgin’s submissions or her reflective piece;
(b) there was limited insight on the part of the Registrant into the adverse impact her actions had upon the reputation of the profession;
(c) assuming that the Registrant’s assertion about the external factors that caused her failings to be true, there is no indication nor reflection on the part of Mrs Burgin as to how, in order to avoid such failings again, she would react differently in future if she were again faced with such factors.
22. In these circumstances, the Panel could not be satisfied that those issues have been addressed and that there was a low risk of repetition.
23. In the light of all the above, the Panel determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired.
24. The Panel then went on to consider what the appropriate and proportionate sanction should be. It had regard to the Indicative Sanctions Policy issued by the HCPC and considered the available sanctions in order of severity, starting with the least restrictive. In the light of the Registrant’s limited engagement with these proceedings and her limited insight, the Panel determined that taking no further action would not be sufficient to protect the public, nor would it be in the public interest.
25. For the same reasons the Panel determined that imposing a caution order would not be sufficient to protect the public, nor would it be in the public interest.
26. The Panel considered whether to impose a Conditions of Practice Order but concluded that it would neither be appropriate nor could the Panel formulate adequate conditions that would properly, and safely, address her lack of insight. This is not a case where there are identified areas of the Registrant’s practice where she lacked competence that could be easily addressed by conditions.
27. The Panel considered that this was unlikely to change in future based upon the information before it. There was no information before the Panel that demonstrated that the Registrant was committed to remaining in the profession. The Panel determined that a further period of suspension would serve no useful purpose and would not further the public interest.
28. The Panel determined that the appropriate and proportionate sanction now is to remove the Registrant’s name from the Register.
The Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mrs Jayne Burgin from the register upon expiry of the current order.
You may appeal to the High Court in England and Wales against the Panel’s decision and the order it has made against you.
Under Articles 30(10) and 38 of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, any appeal must be made to the court not more than 28 days after the date when this notice is served on you.